Social media is often appreciated for its virality, which implies a loss of control as messaging spreads beyond target audiences. Marketers still can use social media to target consumers in specific localities, or incorporate social sharing functionality into local programs. Here are ten technologies and ways marketers can use them:
Facebook Pages: Most of the time, marketers broadcast their posts as widely as possible. Sometimes, however, more narrowly targeted posts are more relevant, and relevance is a large part of keeping consumers engaged. If you're a cheese producer and write a post about the best poutine in Wisconsin, you can choose to show the post only to your fans who are residents of Milwaukee and speak Canadian French. Pourquoi pas?
Facebook Places: Let the social network with about 600 million members get a second entry, since Places is a different animal. It's only for businesses with physical locations, and it's designed for mobile devices. With the added option for marketers to offer deals, Places can incorporate local promotions that don't necessarily need to be part of the Page strategy itself.
Mobile Social Alerts: Places and deals aside, few mobile marketing offerings come directly from Facebook. TextualAds fills a void by allowing marketers to text Facebook fans who opt in to such communications. You can target consumers based on information they provide through Facebook, such as location, gender and age.
Mobile Social Integration: If you offer local content through mobile channels, and that content consists of updates consumers may want to share, then adding social calls-to-action can facilitate the spread of your messaging. My favorite example here is Xtify, which powers local alerts for marketers and app developers. Glance at their case studies and notice how many examples include a "share" button.
Twitter: Last year, Twitter started to show why it matters for local marketing. Trends can be monitored for certain geographies, while searches can show only the tweets near you. As Twitter learns more about where its users are -and especially about when they use mobile devices - local targeting will become one of the key value propositions for marketers.
Group Buying: Groupon may be the most prominent in this genre, but I like LivingSocial's straightforward hook to encourage customers to spread the word about local deals: "Buy, share, and if three friends buy, yours is free." It's now generally a given that enough people will act on a deal, as long as they're at least moderately vetted and have some hook where a marketer gives away something for nothing. LivingSocial keeps "social" as part of its name and its appeal.
Review Sites: I wouldn't call Amazon a social media site, but reviews do add social elements to any retail or local business site that uses them. Sites like Yelp, Citysearch, and Menupages only survive thanks to reviews, or what we in the earlier days of social media liked to call "user-generated content." Side note: when did references to "UGC" go the way of the widget? I never hear it referenced anymore.
Recommendations: It was only after breakfast at Norma's with Lea Marino from startup Bizzy that I thought of breaking out recommendations from reviews here. When I wasn't stuffing my face with caramel-drenched French toast, I was grilling Lea on what makes Bizzy different from other sites where one finds and rates local businesses. Bizzy's focus on personalized, categorized, local recommendations stood out. The idea is you don't need to find a place to eat that has a hundred reviews if you can choose between the two favorite sushi bars from your close friends. Foursquare and FoodSpotting operate under similar principles.
Check-in Apps: Beyond Facebook Places, you can pick any of your favorite Foursquare-esque check-in apps to find some way to reach consumers seeking local information. This year these apps will have to prove that they can scale, at least within certain demographics.
Aggregated Check-In Responses: This category is so new, I'm not sure what to call it yet, but there are already a couple of entrants. PlacePunch says it "provides easy to use loyalty and mobile marketing solutions that leverage 'check-ins' to deliver more customers to your business." LocalResponse lacks any details on its website but seems to take a similar approach based on a presentation given by its founder. Since I've only talked with these companies' founders off the record, I'll refer you to those sites for now, but will have much more to say about this area soon.
This list includes many of the more compelling ways to marry social media with local targeting, but it's hardly comprehensive, as the options for marketers grow by the day. Recommend, review, or share your own favorites in the comments or through your social channel of choice.